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Black Friday shopping like we all know it is officially over because of COVID-19

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large


Enjoy your fresh roasted turkey on Thanksgiving and morning-after, leftover bird on whole wheat bread this year because Black Friday will be virtually non-existent.

While the tradition of insane crowds and shopping on Black Friday has been fading in recent years amid the shift to online shopping, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means waiting in line for hours for a 75% discounted TV will simply not be a reality in 2020. Stores will be closed on Thanksgiving and in-store Black Friday deals pushed online because consumers just don’t want to go out due to fear of catching the deadly airborne virus.

What will be a reality this year, however, is Black Friday will be starting earlier than ever online, according to retail executives and other pros Yahoo Finance chatted with. Moreover, consumers should expect some salivating Black Friday online deals perhaps starting in early October as retailers look to pry money from cautious consumers ahead of the November presidential election. The discounts will be further spurred on by retailers seeking to bring in whatever sales they could amid their most important quarter after a horrific year at the hands of the pandemic.

“The big challenge with any kind of Black Friday offering is how are you going to manage crowds,” Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Kodali told Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. “Retailers — especially department stores — on days like Black Friday and the weekend after, they are going to have to do things like scheduling visits, reducing the number of people and spreading out [deals] as much as they can in the weeks before.”

Kodali added, “I do expect that the consumer is going to absolutely benefit. And the consumer is going to be able to get a lot of these offers from the comfort of their home because that’s really the push. It’s the push online and getting items shipped to you or buying online and coming to the curb and picking it up or having it dropped into your car.”

Signs are already emerging that this Black Friday will be very different.

Home Depot effectively canceled its traditional Black Friday this week. Instead, it will offer Black Friday discounts beginning in early November and continue the deals into December.

And say goodbye to all the rage these past five years in retail: having stores open for business on Thanksgiving.

In the past, Walmart has left its doors opened all day on Thanksgiving. Best Buy has welcomed long lines of shoppers starting at 5 p.m. Target has seen big crowds at its early Thanksgiving opening. And Kohl’s has opened on Thanksgiving, too.

All four of those retailers have announced they will close this Thanksgiving.

Holiday shoppers take part in early Black Friday shopping deals at the Gap store on the Thanksgiving holiday in Times Square in New York, U.S., November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Holiday shoppers take part in early Black Friday shopping deals at the Gap store on the Thanksgiving holiday in Times Square in New York, U.S., November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The reality is there will be fewer places to shop this Black Friday because of COVID-19-related bankruptcies.

J.C. Penney for the past few years has opened its stores earlier on Thanksgiving to lure in deal seekers. But the company has filed for bankruptcy since last Thanksgiving, and it even though it will emerge soon with 650 stores open — thanks to a Simon Property Group and Brookfield bailout — that number is down from 1,000 or so last year. It’s also unclear if the remaining 650 J.C. Penney stores will open this Thanksgiving due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Macy’s is closing hundreds of stores. Brooks Brothers is closing stores because of its bankruptcy this summer. And the same goes for GNC, Lord & Taylor, Stein Mart, Men’s Wearhouse, and New York & Co.

Kmart for many years was the king of Thanksgiving openings — it swung open its doors at 7 a.m. for more than 20 years straight. That’s not happening this year as Kmart is basically out of business after years of god awful management.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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